Friday, March 29, 2013

Bountiful baskets & other tidbits...

 Tomorrow is pick-up day for Bountiful Baskets all over the USA.  This will be my second basket and I'm so excited to see what's inside.  OnlyDaughter will be our pick-up girl and on Easter Sunday she will deliver to NextDoorDaughter and me here at the ranch. We are still figuring out how much produce the three of us can smartly use over a week's time until the next basket must be ordered and picked up.  The first basket was very good.  I got this sweet little Living Lettuce in my portion. See it's roots below?  It was delicious and reminded me of my own summer lettuce because I always plant Buttercrunch.  I have never bought a head of lettuce with roots this way, have you? 

Along with the head of lettuce, we received several big, beautiful russet potatoes, lots of onions, a big bunch of asparagus, a head each of broccoli and cauliflower and for fruits we received bananas, tangelos, and grapefruit.  All very delicious.  If you've never tried Bountiful Baskets, you should.  It's a food co-op which buys fruits and vegetables and a few other things and distributes it amongst its contributing members.  A regular basket comes with whatever is in season -- half fruit and half veg.  If you want to, for a little extra money, you can add in breads, granola, extra veggies or select in-season fruits in bulk.  It's really a good buy too.  The standard basket is $15 (add on $1.50 service fee charge and a first-time charge of $3).  We were most pleased with the quality and the amount of produce we found in our baskets and we are excited to carry on this spring and through the year.  I'm thinking it will be nice to have fresh produce when the garden is not producing and when the garden is at full-production, we can opt not to get a basket.  If you'd like to check out Bountiful Baskets for your area, click HERE.  One more thing --BB has a blog so if you get a fruit or veggie that you've never used before, you can go there and find some good recipes and ideas on how to cook it or eat it.

In other news around home, Hubs and I got our vitamin D3 levels tested.  It was really kind of nifty.  We bought two kits online from The Vitamin D Council, filled out the questionnaires, and did the blood tests ourselves.  We sent the tests back to the lab and received our results in an email notice in just a couple days.  Our D levels were at the edge of the optimal range (50-80 ng/ml).  I was actually a 46 so I am boosting my D3 intake through additional supplements, and I'm working harder at getting some natural D by sitting in the sun on warmish days.  Our sun right now is ok, but still fairly weak in strength so I don't feel like I'm getting a "good dose" of D yet.  The good thing is that it only takes about 15-20 minutes of sitting in the sun with a tank top and shorts for the body to produce 10,000 IUs of D3. 

I have another new bottle baby.  The little fella's mom was a c-section and I guess the experience did her in.  She didn't want anything to do with her calf and after days of trying to get her to take him, we turned her out and started bottle feeding him.  So now I have Bette and Bobby.  I've been noticing that once in a while Bette is sucking one of the mama cows in the pen.  Now I see Bobby has picked up on the idea.  It amazes me that the cows will let them nurse.  Mainly, they rob milk when the cows are at the hay rack eating.  Smart li'l bummies.

God sent a sweet gift to me early this morning.  I was sound asleep in my comfy bed with my window slightly cracked open when all of the sudden I heard -- whether in a dream or real, I wasn't sure -- robin-song.  I stirred and awoke, and sure enough, there was real robin-song coming from the window by my bed.  I just lay there awhile enjoying the long awaited song, smiling and thanking God for His simple gifts.  Later on that morning I saw my First  Robin of Spring.

I've been tidying up the house a little bit each day in expectation of our Easter guests.  All the kids and their families, fiance', cousin, and friends along with grandparents will be joining us on Easter Sunday for dinner.  Everybody brings a little something to add to the traditional ham dinner so it is always a day of faith, food, family and fun.  Too bad it is supposed to snow.  We'll hunt Easter eggs in the house and be grateful for the moisture.  I wish you a joyful day of preparation and a Happy Easter.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Like one of us...

 Jesus as a boy from The Passion of the Christ

I've been thinking about Jesus these past few days.  Most of the time, I think of Jesus as a grown man, walking through Israel with His disciples, teaching the multitudes, and tipping over tables in the temple, but lately I've been thinking of Him as a child and a teenage boy. Since Jesus was totally human like my kids, I imagine Him as a toddler, sneezing with a cold and wiping His messy nose on Mary's sleeve.  I'll bet there were times when He was up crying in the night because He was all stuffed-up and needed some Vicks  eucalyptus ointment rubbed on his chest.  I can see Him with scraped, bruised knees from racing his brothers over the gravel roads and falling after skidding across rocks.  I imagine Mary picking slivers from Jesus' hands as he learned to use the tools of a carpenter alongside Joseph.  If He worked as hard as I think He did, I'll bet He was sweaty and stinky with his hair full of wood shavings after a hard day's work, and if He was anything like my boys, He probably didn't wash all the way up to his elbows before supper and had to go back and rewash before sitting down to the table.  And I'll bet He forgot to brush His teeth regularly.  Halo shining?  Not a chance.  Totally human was my Savior, Jesus -- like one of us.

These thoughts bring me to a song that I heard for the first time a couple of nights ago.  It's called "One of Us."   I like this particular version of it best from contestant, Sarah Simmons, on the night she debuted on The Voice.

Here is a link to the full song One of Us (sung by Sarah Simmons)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring icicles....

 The snowstorm came and deposited a nice inch or so of wet snow on our land.  The air smells fresh and clean and a little wettish.  Now it's back to cold, but we did get a little melting around noon today.  I spotted some dripping icicles on the way to feed Bette. 

 I had a little girl helper with me today.  Miss Bee trailed behind me to the open shed where Bette lives with another couple of cows and a calf.  Even though she is crippled, Bette moos and runs to me when she hears the barn door slide open.

Bee was a little bit shy about Bette because Bette is so open and forceful in her love-giving.  She immediately rubs and sucks on us the minute we open the door.  I got the bottle shoved in her mouth and Bee helped me hold on to it while Bette sucked so hard and fast she had her bottle finished off in a couple minutes.

I actually SAW the meadowlarks today even though I have been hearing their sweet song for a few days.  The Canada Geese are constantly honking in the pastures.  You can hear them from a long way off, it seems.

I wanted to share something that looks very delicious and Easter-y to me.  It's called a Smorgastarta which is a savory Swedish sandwich cake.  There are three layers of bread with meat spreads thin sliced meats and/or veggies in between.  You make the smorgastarta the day before you want to eat it so everything has a chance to meld together and then you "frost" it and add your fresh decorations like hard-boiled eggs, sliced veggies and such.  I remember reading a book one time about a family who had a layered sandwich similar to this one every Sunday.  Since it was a make-ahead meal, it worked well for Sundays so that the lady-of-the-house could rest from her cooking chores.  I remember the recipe mentioned a layer of egg salad, sliced ham, thin roast beef, cheese, and veggies.  Each layer had a little mayonnaise that kept it glued together.  This link will give you loads of smorgastarta ideas.  Wouldn't these be fun to make for parties or luncheons?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

You know it's spring on the ranch when...

The days are getting longer, and the sun is getting stronger.
The hay stacks are growing small.
The dogs quit eating their dog food but still get fat eating at the barn on cow afterbirth.
"Did the calf suck?"  is the question of the day.
The bird feeders are always empty.
Everyone is hungrier.
Cats are nesting in the straw piles. 
The skunks are out.
Pitchforks, straw, and the wheel barrow magically appear at the barn.  Can you say "muck."
(So far) I'm wearing my cowgirl boots more than my Boggs.
I think about eating fresh garden lettuce and radishes even though they are at least couple months away.
I keep looking for and listening for the meadowlark.
I see four mountain bluebirds on the fenceline in the morning.  They're just passing through.
The pasture is showing a light tinge of green with a few shoots of new grass amidst the old, dry grass.
I find tips of hyacinths and tulips barely pushing through the ground on the south side of the house.
One by one, meadowlarks, geese, horned larks, and other birds begin to arrive.  No robins yet.
I attempt drying sheets on the line, but bring them in to finish drying, hanging them over chairs.
There's a chance of snow headed our way.
I start thinking about sitting in the sun painting my toes.  It's still just a thought.
I want to embroider bunnies and flowers.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bette Davis Eyes...

Isn't she lovely?  
My new bottle baby is named
Bette Davis because she's got Bette Davis eyes.
Well......don'tcha think?

When Bette's mama was birthing, she went down when Bette was halfway out and basically, her mama sat on her.  Now Bette's hind quarters and legs are stifled from the injury.  She has some trouble walking, but she's getting better every single day.  She has now become my bottle baby because her cow-mama didn't want anything to do with her.  Who knows why?  We think it might be a hormonal thing because she didn't seem to have any mothering sense and not any milk either.  

 Look at these lashes.  
Some of the lashes are longer than cat whiskers.

 She has one white eye and one eye with a red patch.  Her lashes match her hair color on each eye except for the long ones on the red eye.  I feed Bette a bottle 3 times a day and when she's done, I rub her and scratch her and tell her what a good girl calfie she is.  She follows me around the corral a little, just like the other calvies do with their mamas.

These are the newest babies who are spending a day or two in Bette's corral.  The mamas talk to Bette and to their own calves.  I'm so glad she has other calvies to play with sometimes.  This bunch will be moved out tomorrow and the newest mamas and babies will join Bette.

On another note, we docked the majority of our lambs yesterday.
Stats:  98 ewes, 177 lambs total:  87 ewe lambs, 90 wethers.
Approximately 181% lamb crop from this bunch.


I heard the first Killdeer call two days ago, and the first song of the Western Meadowlark  was sung this morning when I walked to the barn to feed Bette.  The Red-winged Blackbirds are conk-la-ree-ing in the Big Cottonwoods by our house too.  I love it when the birds and the birdsong returns.  (If you want to hear the bird calls, click each link and scroll down to "typical voice."

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Chore time...

It's time to do the chores this afternoon.  We need to check on the heifers every so often.  They are due to have their baby calves just any day.  In fact, we had one calf born last night -- the first of the season.  He's a cutie pie with spotted eyes.  His mother likes him.  They're staying in the corral under the lean-to for now. 

 Each afternoon I throw out the scraps from the bucket I keep under the sink, and the chickens have a feast.  Sometimes the barnyard cats join them.  Bottoms up, girls!

 There were just ten eggs in the nests today.  Most days I get a dozen or 14 eggs.  Since there are some old hens in the mix, they don't lay each day like the younger ones do. 

The menfolk cleaned out the barn today withe the tractor and left it to air out all afternoon.  The heifers are brought into the barn each evening, and we check them through the night to see if there are any problems with the heifers calving or to find baby calves.  The barn gets pretty dirty after a couple nights so cleaning the barn becomes a regular chore during heifer calving.  After the old straw and manure is hauled out, we roll out a straw bale, get our pitchforks, and start tossing straw around to bed the barn floor.

Doesn't this look like a comfy bed of straw for tired cows to sleep on?  From another favorite book of mine, here's a little wisdom on chores from Little Heathens.  Have you read it?  If you love books about growing up on the farm, you'll like this one.

Though certain work was usually thought of as a man's work, on our farm, everyone, male, female, and kids lent a hand to get the job done.  Women, if circumstances required, could be counted on to help load hay into the haymow, shock oats or wheat, and done a corn-husker and work gloves to handpick a field of corn that had become too rain-soaked to accommodate the heavy McCormick Deering mechanical picker.  The same was true of "women's work."  There were times when men helped women can meat, assisted in an extra-heavy wash, lent a hand at making apple or plum butter, and took a turn at the churn.  When work needed to be done, it didn't matter whether the  worker wore pants or a skirt.  

"...and make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands..."  ~I Thessalonians 4:11

Friday, March 08, 2013

First we have coffee...

Since our little chit-chat about March and coffee and lambs and all sorts of things, I thought I'd talk with you over a hot mug of coffee.  Pom Pom reminded me of a book called First We Have Coffee  which is one of my most favorite books ever.  Margaret Jensen has a way of living the Gospel and loving others in the simplest way -- over a pot of coffee.  The stories she tells remind me of of all the times when Jesus healed someone and then told those who were there, "Give her/him something to eat."  And when he told the disciples to gather up a few loaves of bread and fish to feed the 5,000 hungry people who were listening to Him preach all afternoon, He had human hunger in mind.  Giving people food and drink has its practical purposes, but it also has its spiritual purposes.  Remember the Ghandi quote from a couple weeks agoThere are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.   Well, that's the idea behind Margaret Jensen's book.  If you find a copy, you will be greatly blessed.

In the picture above, I'm showing you my favorite way to brew a single mug of coffee.  I have been making my afternoon mug o' joe this way for many years.  I use a Melitta Single Cup pour-over thingy.  What I love about it is that it takes just minutes to boil the water and pour it over coffee grounds.  It's simple, it's hot, and the taste is superb!  I also like that I can take it with me when Hubs and I go on a trip.  (I told you I was a coffee snob.)  The last time we went to a week-long golf tournament, I packed my coffee, filters, and my red funnel.  All I need is boiled water, and most hotels have one of those little coffee pots in the room or hot water in the lobby.  I never have to worry about drinking yukky coffee that way and it's easy to pack.

Doesn't this look good enough to drink?  Well, almost.  I swear, sometimes I think I could eat coffee beans.  You've had the chocolate covered ones, yes?  Yes!

Instead of eating coffee beans, I had this cute little Snickers Egg along with my afternoon coffee.  See how it's melting on the side of the mug?  Oh yeah!  I have five more if you want one to go with your coffee.

Hubs and I go out every morning and feed the ewes and lambs both alfalfa hay and cake.  It's been so cold and windy and March-y that they need the extra nutrition to keep their lambs well fed.  The lambs even nibble on the hay like their mothers.

We've had lots of lambs with speckles and spots this spring.  I like them.  They remind me of the Old Testament story of Jacob working seven years to obtain Rachel's hand in marriage from her father, Laben.  Eventually while tending sheep all those years, Jacob made a deal with Laban that the lambs that were born spotted and speckled would be part of the dowry.  (Genesis 30)  The deal ended in Jacob's favor because he knew how to breed sheep.  We didn't plan to breed our lambs to be spotted and speckled, but some came out that way.  Now we are wondering which buck bred the spots.

The bum lambies left for a new home today.  The six went to a family with nice little children who will love them.  They also have goats so the lambies will have delicious, nutritious goat milk rather than the powdered stuff I was feeding them.  They are lucky lambs indeed!

Yesterday a special gift flew down to me.  I was out feeding the sheep and noticed the bluest-of-blue bluebirds on the barb wire fence.  I couldn't believe my eyes!  As you can see from the pictures above, it is extremely dry and brown out here.  To see the bluebird against the dull background you see was most impressive.  I stopped and glassed the bird with my binoculars.  I believe it was a Western Bluebird.  I didn't get a really clear look at him, but I think the beak was thicker than the Mountain Bluebird that I sometimes see during migration and he had the rosy color on his breast.  Bluebirds never stay here, but just fly on through.  Still, it was a treat for my eyes.   A Bluebird of Happiness -- more evidence of spring migration.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A March ramble...

These first days of March have come in like a Lion, just as it almost always does.  Actually, I don't much like March because it always seems like the windiest, chilliest, nastiest time of the year here.  We were supposed to have a "nice" day in the mid 50s today, but no.  We woke up to 10 degrees and a deep, penetrating cold.  The barn where the newest ewe/lamb families were stashed for the night was bitter cold.  Inside we found one ewe with triplets who just keeled over for no apparent reason so those three M-babies were gathered up, poor things.  (The lambs were marked with the letter M at birth)  Another four lambies were all humped up, thin, and bleating.  One young mother only wanted one of her twins, and the other lambs were evidently doing so poorly on their aged mothers that we grabbed them and put them in the bum pen too, poor neglected things.

Today has been a suckling day.  Every four hours or so you'll find me sitting on the milking stool  trying to get those bummies to suckle onto a bottle.  The triplets are the best suckers, but the other four require more patience and attention.  They are weak, frail, and tiny and don't have as much "want to" as the Ms do.  We'll carry on though, feeding a little milk at a time until everyone comes around to being expert at suckling.  With each feeding the bummies get a little better and a little smarter, and they come to think of me as their Mama Sheep.  After I feed them, I rub them down and wipe off their faces with my mittens and tell them what good lambies they are.  That's what their mother would do.  Despite my growing attachment to them, I am planning to sell them to Dr. Liz if she still has room in her bum lamb program for them.  If not, we'll keep them and raise them.

 Loggerhead Shrike from All About Birds

The other day we were in the barn working heifers and sorting them up into calving groups.  We'll be having baby calves just any day now.  As we were working I noticed a fairly large bird flying back and forth, back and forth through the rafters.  I tried and tried to make out what it was, and finally it clicked in my brain.  It was a Loggerhead Shrike -- a handsome predator bird who wears a black mask and has a large, hooked beak that is made for eating mice and small birds.   It gave me a thrill to see it since it would mark the beginning of the bird migration here.  I've also noticed the Canada Geese flying in by the flockfuls.  I just love seeing the birds return home for the spring and summer months.  Still no signs of robins or the western meadowlarks.

As you know, I love my coffee.  In fact, I think I have become a coffee snob -- meaning I want to drink the Best Coffee every time I drink it.  Why not?  Well, today I was looking at a Bialetti  on Amazon.  Have you ever tried one?  I haven't, but I'm thinking about buying one.  It is really inexpensive, and it is said that this old-school Italian espresso maker makes the best coffee ever.   For our regular morning coffee, we have always used a Bunn with fresh-ground coffee.  It's ok, but being the coffee snob that I am, I never think that the water is hot enough when it pours over the coffee grounds to make the very best coffee.  I do like the taste of my Melitta One Cup pour-over because I bring the water to boiling every time and the coffee is excellent, but it isn't practical to only make just one cup at a time for the two of us.  Hubs, on the hand, really doesn't care a flip about "good coffee."  He likes the stuff they make at the vet clinic that sits in one of those aluminum pots all day long so he would probably be just fine keeping the old Bunn on the countertop forever no matter the water temperature. My only other justification for buying the Bailetti  or this stainless Farberware Classic is that so often we have power outages, and it would be so good to have a stovetop espresso coffee maker for those I don't have to suffer too much.  (We do have a generator -- thanks be to God -- but you know, what if someday we can't afford electricity?  It could happen.)  So what about you, what's your favorite way to make and drink coffee?

One of the college sons came for a quick little visit yesterday.  He is on spring break, but he is working at his job through it.  A day visit was just great.  We talked and laughted and cooked together and made chocohotopots for dessert.

The townie grandlittles were here today.  Bee and Ladybug brought their mom out for a visit.  They even came bearing molasses cookies for coffee time.  Wasn't that nice of them to do?  We didn't get to spend much time outdoors like we planned because the wind was blowing fierce and cold out of the east, but Bee and I fed the lambies together at the barn, and she insisted on kissing each of their heads. Ladybug is just two months old and she is smiling and cooing and saying cute baby words.  I just love being a Grammy.

I ordered baby chicks last week, but the feed store won't receive them until the very end of April.  Rats!  I was hoping to have chickies for the grandgirls for Easter.  I guess we will just have to look at the lambies and the new baby calves instead.  I ordered 24 pullets of various breeds:  Pearl White Leghorn, Red Star, Buff Orpington, Barred Rock and Araucana.  I also ordered 4 roosters because I thought it might be fun to raise a few of our own chicks later on.  I may regret that decision.  Usually I get sick of roosters and their nasty ways, and they end up in the stock pot.  We'll see how it all turns out later.

I shoveled some snow over the spot where my hyacinths will hopefully push through when spring finally arrives for us.  I don't bemoan the snow.  We actually need snow or rain or anything wet because we are short on grass and short on water where we live.  More snow, especially wet snow, would be most welcomed.  Or rain.  I'd love some rain.  It did rain a couple nights ago, just a little, and then it snowed, but not much.  It mostly turned cold and the wind blew hard.  If wind was snow, we'd be buried in the stuff.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Tea and frocks...

 It was a Grammy Day today with the girls spending the day at our house.  After naps we had tea.  The little girls dressed up in their frocks and I baked the Chocolate Chip-Orange Scones and boiled water for our tea.  It really was a nice treat.

 Peach wore a Thumbelina frock.
Toodles wore a Snow White gown.
Thank you, Maggs and Pom Pom for the tea-spiration.  We had a nice afternoon talking about bugs and books while we sipped and snacked.  The scones were a new-to-me recipe and will be made many times again.  Here is my revised version:

Chocolate Chip-Orange Scones
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7  tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate
11 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Zest of the orange
crystal sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or a large fork, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips. Mix in the orange juice to form a dough.
Turn out the dough on a floured surface. Pat or roll into a 9 inch circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut scones as you like.  Transfer the scones to the baking sheet.  Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle with crystal sugar.
Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Move to wire racks to cool.  Eat.


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